Thursday, October 11, 2007

Vista again!

I still enjoy a good laugh every time I think of Microsoft's launch campaign for Vista! Remember that "The Wow starts now"! What wow? Looking back it wasn't even a pop. Or a squeaky bit of wind. (Sorry for being a bit rude!)

Do you know anyone who is using Vista? I don't. I have considered switching to it a few times but within a couple of days come running back to XP. One of the main issues I have with Vista is it regularly re-writes its boot program to my boot sector. I think it is triggered by Microsoft Updates. But becuase I am evaluating Vista I am multi-booting and using a third party boot manager. The fact Vista always screws this up and I have to restore it from CD to get back to my XP installation puts me off trying it!

I havn't mentioned my Dad on here before. He is very clever and is the fountain of all knowledge. But he really struggles with computers. He believes a computer should do what he wants, how he wants. And it never does. The reasoning for pressing the Start button to stop the computer still beats him.

Because he is a computer amateur he is probably one of the most vulnerable users to all the virus and phishing scams. I have set up all his computer security as high as I can. I have explained to him to watch for anything suspicious and tell me if anything changes on his computer. I have also explained to be extremely warey of pop-ups telling him of a problem and telling him to click somewhere or install something. This is how he has been caught in the past by a trojan.

He has a new digital camera and enjoys checking his emails. Someone at work had told him you can put your photos onto a DVD as a movie and play it on your friends televisions and he wants to do this. I can't find any simple software to do this on XP but Vista does it natively. The Vista interfaces for photos and videos are significantly enhanced over XP. I have asked him to try and upgrade. Though it is noticably slower, his PC can run it. He hasn't switched yet.

I have waffled a bit above, but I have two serious points to make:

1) A learning computer operating system.

This is a vision we were promised with XP. That the computer learns what tasks you do most and automatically tunes itself to help you. Problem is it doesn't work with XP. And it has got worse in Vista. Every few weeks when I visit home I have a list of messages, changes or new icons that Dad has noticed - as I asked him to. They are nearly all made automatically by the computer learning or applying updates. They do not help at all. They cause confusion. Why when he is learning how to work the computer do the goal posts keep moving?

There is really no excuse on Microsoft's account. Computers are fast, have plenty of idle processor time and always on internet connections. How can basic self-tweaking algorithms perform such a bad job of knowing what a user wants? And why is it impossible to turn them all off and lock the computer down to a consistent state?

2) Multiple Users with proper roles still not anywhere near implemented.

Since Windows NT Microsoft has allowed multiple users to have a different personal environment. Users can be an administrator or a standard user. I've have discussed Vista security on this blog months back so will avoid repeating myself. What I want is for the standard user to be let alone to work. They can use Word, surf the net and use the applications that are on the PC in peace. Save all the annoying windows nags (which have increased three-fold in Vista) for when an administrator logs in.

Why is it not possible for me to make any change as an administrator and apply it to all the users? If I install a wireless network when I am the administrator it should work as soon as a standard user logs in. When I am setting up the machine I have to log in as every user account and setup things like the networking and Office settings.

I know windows is not meant to be a fully multi-user operating system. Only one person can work on the machine at a time. It is not possible for a less powerful machine to connect remotely and run programs on a powerful machine while someone else is working on it. However on the launch of Windows XP it was claimed that each member of the house could have their own account, own documents, own favourites etc. But it still does not work.

Usability of computers should have moved on by now. Microsoft has had generations of operating systems to make this work. Why have such basic features still not been delivered? And why are amateur users still struggling to learn Windows way of doing things?


Update: I am discussing stand-alone Vista in a home or small business environment. Central management and configuration are different if your Vista machine belongs to a Domain.

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